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A Success Story - Taylor Fenters

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Taylor Fenters

 

Taylor, who is from Klamath Falls, Oregon, is attending Whitworth University.  His experience with cancer has helped him realize his passion for life and for helping those in need.  He is a Medullablastoma (pediatric brain tumor)  survivor.  In his own words:

Who would have thought that having the world ripped away from me would be the wake-up call I needed? . . .

   There was a time when all that mattered were soccer games, basketball games, grades, and watching TV.  I was a dedicated student and athlete.  I excelled in virtually everything I tried.  After playing chess for a couple of years at school, I tied for second in the state tournament (no, I do not consider chess a "sport").  However, I never played chess again after that tournament for fear that I would never have a girlfriend.  I was a point guard on a traveling AAU basketball team.  I was a midfielder on a traveling classic soccer team.  I was a straight A student.  At twelve years old, it seemed that the sky was the limit . . .

 Two-thirds of the way through my sixth grade year and continuing my streak of 1000 spelling words right-in-a-row, I was diagnosed with Medullablastoma (pediatric brain tumor).  I found out after an MRI my parents wanted me to have due to my headaches and loss of balance.  I underwent surgery to remove the golf-ball-sized tumor, and began chemotherapy and radiotherapy a few weeks later.  I bawled like a baby when I found out I had a year and a half of treatments to endure afterward.

I lived in a fifth wheeler (travel trailer) for seven weeks because my parents wanted me to do my radiation therapy at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon, which is five hours away from my house.  I learned perseverance during that time.  I dreaded treatments so much that I threw up every time I walked past the coffee stand on my way.  We had to ask the doctors to give us an alternate route to the fourth floor just to avoid the coffee smell.  It took a lot longer to get there, but I think the janitor appreciated it!  I laugh when I walk by the shop today and rather enjoy the smell. 

I only had two classes my seventh grade year.  I started with three, but when the sick bald kid says he doesn't like a teacher and doesn't want to take the teacher's Life Science class, no one argues.  I came after lunch each day and did fine.  The social aspect was rather depressing though.  My friends were still my friends, but treated me like a china doll.  The eighth graders made jokes behind my back about my baldness.  That hurt.  Now looking back, I see them as insecure junior high students who just wanted to find their own place in society.  I learned a lot about humility during that time.

With the time I spent in the hospital, I saw a great number of things.  Even when I go back for check-ups now at age eighteen, I see things that will live in my memory forever.  There is nothing in the world like seeing the fear in a parents' eyes when they take their baby in for treatments.  It hurt me to hear a small, bald child only make noise to scream when poked by a needle.  It brings tears to your eyes to see a ten-year-old child finishing his last treatment after six years.  I remember less and less about my treatments and what happened then.  I do remember playing a connect the dots type game with a girl named Felicia in the hospital school.  She had leukemia.  I wonder how she is today.  During this time, I learned a lot about the quality of life and what it means to really live.

I graduated valedictorian in a high school class of one hundred and forty-one (there were actually six valedictorians in the class).  I have exchanged soccer and basketball for tennis and golf.  I love church, bible study, and life in general.  I have a beautiful girlfriend I've been with for over a year and a half (we don't count the two month break up), and I am excited about college life.  Once again, it seems like the sky is the limit!

The beauty of my story is that it is not a sad one.  When going through an experience like mine, it is hard to see the silver lining, but it is there.  I am a better person today, and I have a much clearer vision of my future.  I know that I will live my life to the fullest for fear of just going through the motions.  Regardless of my future career I will be helping the down and out, the ones who really need help.  Blissful ignorance of pain is no longer an option; not after seeing it so close up!

I have volunteered by being a Sunday School teacher, going on mission trips to San Francisco, Tijuana and West Africa, and by participating in our local "Relay for Life" for the last two years.

I live with a confidence that is hard to come by, because I know I have faced harder situations in my past.  Perhaps I will be a politician someday looking after the poor or a missionary feeding the starving.  Who knows what the future holds, but isn't that the fun of it?

I am someone who digs deeper than the rest.  I see the world from a slightly different point of view.  I don't see a world falling apart, but instead a world with opportunities to do good.  I have different goals than most, but I still fit in.  Thank you Cancer Survivors' Fund for helping me reach my goals and touch other lives."

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